A few weeks ago my students started the Blogging Challenge, a series of blog posts challenging their technology skills and understandings about education today. I realized the group this semester is particularly savvy with technology on the day we created our blogs. Within just a few minutes they had their blogs created and were off customizing them with eager speed.
Typically, at this point, I am flooded with questions, and this group asked questions too, but the level of questions was different. Just two years ago, when I first started this project, the questions were more procedural — how do I start a blog? How do I make a new page? What are categories? I still get those questions, and I don’t mind them one darn bit, but the questions this semester were mostly much more challenging. For example, students were trying to link their blog to their Google+ profile. In the past, students would just paste the link to their blogroll and be content with that.
This semester, I noticed a few students wanting to know how to create a widget with a clickable link to their Google+ profile. I was really caught off guard as I haven’t had to teach that before. I do it for my own sites frequently, but I’ve never thought about teaching it as I’ve always felt it was over my students’ heads. Megan was intent on getting it, and I stumbled, but a neighboring student, Wesley, came to her rescue before I said anything. He coached her on how to write code for a clickable link, and she seemed to have plenty of experience as within a few minutes, she created exactly what she wanted.
I asked Wesley how he knew what to do, and he said that he took a class on HTML and Java during his Sophomore year. Although he might not remember much, I still think it’s really interesting how some of those skills wedge into our longterm memory and become useful in other ways. Yet another reason to take a coding class in high school. I’m guessing Wesley had no idea that a coding class four years ago would prove useful, but it was certainly a good idea.
Our students really are coming to us with a different set of skills than students even just five years ago. The majority of our students are able to navigate and manipulate technology to produce something personal. I’m not saying that we should expect those skills, but we should be ready to support them accordingly.
After reflecting upon my shortcomings, I created a Youtube video explaining how to create a clickable text widget. Sure, it doesn’t help Megan, but I’m ready for the next student, for now…until they ask me a harder question.